(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Mustafa Sanalla, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation of Libya (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)
Rising tensions among opposing groups in Libya could potentially cause further delay in opening the largest oil ports in the country.
The Es Sider, Zueitina and Ras Lanuf oil ports have not been producing oil since 2014 because of clashes between rival Libyan groups. On Thursday it was announced by Ibrahim Al-Jedran, the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), that the ports will begin to produce and export three days after the UN-backed government (GNA) agreed to pay the wages of the members of the PFG. However, Al-Jedran on Monday said the GNA has not signed the agreement.
The chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) Mustafa Sanalla, in a letter to UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler, stated that the agreement between the GNA and the PFG was a “terrible precedent”. Sanalla is concerned that militias will take advantage of the GNA, due to precedence, and begin to engage in extortion.
Sanalla is concerned that the agreement could potentially “encourage anybody who can muster a militia to shut down a pipeline, an oil field, or a port, to see what they can extort.” Sanalla has also accused Al-Jedran of losing around $100 billion in export revenue.
According to Riccardo Fabiani, the Eurasia Group’s North African analyst, “the sticking point throughout these negotiations has been how much money Al-Jedran gets for re-opening the ports. It will take some more weeks, but I think the reopening will happen. It’s just a matter of the two sides reaching an agreement on the money.”
Fabiani said Al-Jedran has requested that his team’s unpaid salaries be paid in addition to a one-time payment to the PFG for securing the opening of the oil ports. Fabiani further speculates that Sanalla’s letter to Kobler is intended to get Al-Jedran to reduce the amount of money he is asking from the GNA.
In 2013 Al-Jedran and his team blocked access to oil ports claiming to be putting an end to some corrupt oil sales, though many doubted Al-Jedran’s claims.
Sanalla warned that the NOC will not allow the force majeure to be lifted at oil export terminals if payments are made to Al-Jedran, in fear that the NOC will be held responsible for attacks resulting from the blockade.
In response to Sanalla’s letter Al-Jedran said, the letter is “not worth the ink it was written with” and it will not be able to stop the agreement between the PFG and the GNA.
Al-Jedran said his team is at the “highest state of readiness” and can begin the process of exporting oil once the agreement is signed. “The ball is now in the Presidential Council’s court, it only has to come to Ras Lanuf to sign the agreement for exports to start,” he said.
PFG originally operated as a national force intended to guard oil facilities but has since had internal divisions with Al-Jedran’s team being the most powerful. Al-Jedran and his team are based in Libya’s Oil Crescent region and they have operated independent of any political group. The PFG has even switched its political alliances in the past few years.
On July 3rd the previously divided NOC unified under a single leadership however attacks on oil ports have continued by militia groups vying for control.